Although the museum usually hosts a party for the veteran, this year, the coronavirus pandemic has made it change its plans.
America's oldest living World War II veteran, Lawrence Brooks, is about to turn an incredible 111-years-old in a week's time. As he prepares to ring in his big day on September 12 in Louisiana, The National WWII Museum in New Orleans — where Brooks has celebrated his past five birthdays — has something really special planned for him. Although the museum usually hosts a party attended by military veterans, family, friends, and local well-wishers for the centenarian's birthday, a gathering like that isn't practical this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and the risks involved.
Thank you for your service, Lawrence Brooks - Oldest WWII veteran aged 110 holds a photo of his younger self. Born September 12, 1909.https://t.co/r4rd0HPe0s— Acti- Kare Responsive In Home Care (@ActiKareCare) August 27, 2020
However, museum staffers are determined to make the day memorable for Brooks as he reaches such an extraordinary milestone and is now calling for birthday wishes and cards for the veteran. "This year our birthday celebration of America’s oldest living WWII veteran Lawrence Brooks will look a little different. With the global pandemic, we must forgo our traditional get together in favor of some socially distanced fun. Mr. Brooks, a New Orleans native, will turn 111 this year, and we are asking everyone to send in birthday cards to the Museum so that we can deliver them to his home," the museum posted to its Facebook page.
Speaking to The Epoch Times via email, a representative for the museum revealed they've seen an incredible response since putting out the call for birthday wishes last month. They are expecting between 300 and 700 cards or perhaps even more, the representative said, adding that they already have a "full bin" to deliver to Brooks. However, this is not the only surprise they have planned for the birthday boy. The museum is also planning to produce a special video tribute for social media, a "socially distanced performance" from their vocal trio — The Victory Belles — and, of course, a celebratory cake.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, a traditional gathering can't take place this year. Instead, WWII Museum officials are hoping that New Orleanians will send Brooks a birthday card to commemorate his special day. Here's how: https://t.co/uTaQe4dcLg— NOLA.com (@NOLAnews) August 29, 2020
If all that isn't enough to make a man feel special on such an occasion, the Commemorative Air Force's "Big Easy Wing" near the Lakefront Airport in New Orleans, will also be conducting a flyover after the Belles performance. Born in Norwood near Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 1909, Brooks was one of 15 children. He enlisted and served in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion between 1941 and 1945 during World War II and was stationed in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Australia.
Lawrence Brooks was born on Sept. 12, 1909. During World War II, he served in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines. https://t.co/QJu4GFmKnL— Stars and Stripes (@starsandstripes) August 28, 2020
In a 2019 interview with CBS This Morning: Saturday co-host Michelle Miller, Brooks described himself as something of a reluctant soldier. "When I first went, was drafted into the Army, old sergeant was telling us, 'You're training so you can go kill people,'" he recalled. "I said, 'Kill people? As much as I love people, you're telling me I've got to go kill them?'" Although Brooks went on to take a job as a military cook of his unit, he is proud of his history with the U.S. Army. However, in an interview with National Geographic earlier this year, he explained that his memories of World War II are complicated.
WWII ended 75 years ago today. The war was won thanks to the bravery of men like Lawrence Brooks.— US Embassy Tanzania (@usembassytz) September 2, 2020
Read more about Lawrence Brooks who still lives: https://t.co/alIvm2WWGA
Brooks revealed that African American soldiers were subject to racism and hostility on the front lines and at home during the war. "I was treated so much better in Australia than I was by my own white people. I wondered about that," he said. "Every time I think about it, I'd get angry so the best thing I'd do is just leave it go." He noted that although the climate improved after he returned from the war, the Civil Rights Act wasn't signed into law until 1964. Speaking of his motto for happiness and longevity, Brooks said: "Serve God, and be nice to people."
Those who wish to send Brooks a birthday card can send it here:
The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
945 Magazine St.
New Orleans, LA 70130